The Impact of Frogs

Every one of us has many teachers throughout our lives, some traditional while others guide in more subtle ways. Learning is something that never stops, if you are so inclined to heed the nuances of life’s lessons. Reflecting now on when I was young, my grandfather would often write me little stories on note cards incorporating some small event in his day that reminded him of a shared experience we had. These stories took on a fable-like direction, reminiscent of the tales of Peter Rabbit, one of my grandfather’s favorite tales to read to me as a kid. The likes of which heavily influenced his hand-drawn characters that often accompanied his thoughtful notes.

From an early age, my grandfather taught me the importance of appreciating the little things in life, observing their everyday magic. He highlighted the joy of first observing these things, like in his letter about a little green tree frog, lost in the unnatural expanse of his swimming pool. My grandfather recognized his role in the unfolding drama, which ultimately led him to gently move the tired frog from the chlorinated depths back to the refuge of his rose garden, giving it a chance to thrive. 

drawn by Raymond Wann, a.k.a. Pappy

Life lessons come in many forms, bringing both inspiration and responsibility to shape our future. When you’re out catching tadpoles and frogs as a kid, the experience and subsequent memory can lead to so much more. Observing the significance of these small moments is the key to intergenerational stewardship of the natural world. It’s these magnificently minor interactions that, when coupled with more formal environmental education, will spark the fire of action in defense of the natural world and potentially lead to a future which aims to preserve it. 

So get out on those CREW trails and observe the plethora of small frogs and toads hopping about. Our insiders would recommend the CREW Flint Pen Strand along the Orange and Purple trails around the lakes if you want to observe the burgeoning oak toad population. However, life moves quickly and you never can tell where you’ll catch a truly impressive view of these agile amphibians. Either way, I can guarantee you that observing these small things in life, like frogs, will have bigger implications than you can imagine. 

Third generation frog enthusiast

At CREW, you will see examples of life lessons leading to positive investments in the environment all the time. Turns out, some kids grow up and count frogs for science! Frog Watch is one of many surveys conducted on the CREW lands with broad implications.

But, what is Frog Watch and why has CREW been doing it for so long? For starters, CREW is not the only place that Frog Watch occurs. As the name implies, Frog Watch with a capital F & W is the title of a larger nationwide program known as FrogWatch USA that invites volunteers, who act as citizen scientists, along with researchers across the country to collect croaking-raw data throughout the year. In each region, coordinators report the research to a nationwide database with the American Amphibian Monitoring Program and FrogWatch USA, two sides of the same coin in the amphibian research field. Locally, Frog Watch presents the data at meetings and forums and they publish the results in peer reviewed journals. The five and ten-year publications are available on their website Currently, they are summarizing the data for a 20-year assessment. 

Frog calls represent measurable scientific data that can be used by scientists to report the changes in species variations, think about that chorus of cane toads you can hear after a big rain these days compared to a few years ago. Have you noticed the increase? This citizen science approach is important for collecting data that conservation scientists and land managers around the world utilize to address long-term implications and stressors on frog populations and all that their numbers imply for us and the environment we all depend on. 

The Frog Watch conducted at CREW, along Corkscrew road, has been going on for over 20 years! All the standard scientific observation practices, such as starting right after sunset, to the amount of time listening at each stop, and weather readings recorded are recorded and eventually published as part of the public record, making it available to all researchers and interested parties. The work is transformed into a wide range of relatable resources, informing and guiding land development projects and referenced in public awareness campaigns. This is one of the intersections where habitat preservation and wildlife management are the signposts and researchers and volunteers are the drivers.

Green tree frog by Dick Brewer

Amphibian species watched the dinosaurs come and go, and yet because of current environmental trends, some are facing their own rapid decline toward extinction. As part of the most threatened vertebrate group in existence today, frogs are indicator species within a greater ecosystem, often foreshadowing larger ecological changes over the short and long term. Fortunately, data can be used to direct land management planning in subtle and impactful ways. Frogs as both predator and prey, balancing the insect population while also providing food to resident and migratory birds. Protecting the ecosystems where amphibians thrive allows us all to strike a balance in our life on the planet. 

Whoever your teachers were and whatever your role in society is today, all of us are life-long-learners. Our collective challenge, as the dominant species on the planet, comes down to how we share that knowledge. Whether it be through academic research or a thoughtful letter to your granddaughter, we all make an impact on our world. 

Gopher Frogs: Lesser Known Species of CREW

By Allison Vincent

FWC photo by Kevin Enge

Rare sights and sounds abound throughout the CREW trails, especially when compared to the urbanized communities most of us call home. Nevertheless, some species are considerably more rare to see or hear even within the preserved lands of CREW. One such species is the gopher frog, Lithobates capito, a stout-bodied, boldly spotted frog with a chunky appearance that reaches a length of two to four inches. Within the CREW lands, they have their own specialized communities and you can find them in xeric hammock, scrubby and mesic flatwoods, mixed hardwood-pine communities and a variety of disturbed habitats. 

Xeric hammock

Scrubby flatwoods

Mesic flatwoods

Hardwood-pine community

This species gets its name from it’s homely use of gopher tortoise burrows. Gopher frogs are nocturnal, normally spending their day in tunnels, stump holes, and gopher tortoise burrows. However, because of habitat destruction, the gopher frog is very rare in its southern range of south Florida, and is listed as a FWC species of special concern in Florida.

Pivotal to the success of future generations of gopher frogs is land management and preservation, like the work you support at CREW. Prescribed fire and shredding of vegetation in the understory of their ecosystems helps to eliminate small shrubby tree encroachment, dense debris, peat buildup, and increased evapotranspiration (evaporation of surface water and release of water vapor).

Partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wildlife biologists and the South Florida Water Management District land managers ensures that habitat restoration takes place within the CREW project which in turn greatly benefits environmental sensitive species like the gopher frog. 

FWC biologists at CREW have recently reignited research on game and predaceous fish, another threat to gopher frog populations.

FWC photo by Kevin Enge

In Search of a Mate

Gopher frogs will travel long distances (up to a mile or more) to breed mainly in seasonally flooded, temporary breeding ponds, but also in permanent waters. The gopher frogs occurring in southern Florida will breed a second time in the summer. Females lay eggs in shallow water in a single mass that can contain 3,000 to 7,000 eggs. Once hatched, the tadpoles metamorphose in three to seven months. Gopher frogs usually reach sexual maturity at two years of age.

Listen for the Chorus

The call of a gopher frog is developed in the back of the mouth and sounds like a deep guttural snore. Heavy rains at any season may stimulate choruses, resulting with many of them calling at once. Sometimes they call from underwater, so as not to attract predators, creating a noise that is detected only by a hydrophone, which is defined exactly as the name implies, a microphone which detects sound waves underwater.

Listen to sound recordings of gopher frog calls among other Florida species

Frogs Strolling Science Seminar Resources

Frog Resources (for April 6, 2012 Seminar)

 Frog/Amphibian Information:
  Citizen Science Projects on frogs:
Select scholarly papers on frogs:
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